My first encounter with The Joy Formidable, aside from knowing their name from the list of bands I’m hoping to review before Lollapalooza, was last week when they played Conan. It turned out to be something of a revelation – I ended up watching it three times. After reviewing the first group of bands in this series I’ve created I was beginning to think the Lollapalooza undercard was simply an amalgamation of similar sounding bands that were obscure enough for no one to really patch together that they weren’t anything special. I’m not saying that The Joy Formidable is the next Led Zeppelin or what have you but they bring something to the table that I haven’t heard or seen from the previously reviewed bands: unbridled rock and roll energy.
The Joy Formidable is a band that really enjoys what they’re doing and isn’t afraid of being loud as hell. Swirling guitar, wild drums and thick bass lines are all part of the equation. Plus, the fact that there are three of them gives me the excuse to use the term power trio which is easily one of my favorite terms in music. They’re from Wales and the lead singer/guitarist, Ritzy Bryan, has a Johnny-Depp-in-Willy-Wonka haircut only bleached white and makes crazy faces the entire time she’s singing. It’s actually as awesome as it sounds. There’s no question as to whether or not they’re enjoying themselves when they’re playing and that’s infectious.
If you were ever so inclined to dig through my archives you’d see that I have a thing for early 1990′s Pearl Jam performances. There’s nothing better than seeing a band who’s truly into what they’re doing and I make no apologies for getting way too excited when a band loses their shit on stage. I’m sure there are plenty out there who see it as formulaic alt-rock posturing and that’s fine by me. I eat that stuff for breakfast, lunch and dinner but I never see it anymore. One review of their act said, and I paraphrase, The Joy Formidable had studied 90′s alt-rock for dummies and imported it to the US. Harsh and weak. And false.
They played their song Whirring which I consider the highlight of their latest album. Whirring pounds along from a beginning of repetitive rhythm and a catchy chorus that builds into a crescendo of furious drumming and a wall of guitar noise. Maybe I’m thicker-skulled than your average Neanderthal but I happen to love that kind of noise – a recent example of a song with a similar type of ending is Common Reactor by Silversun Pickups. But The Joy Formidable throws a twist into this one and busts out the double bass pedals – no stranger to me as a metal fan but a welcome surprise I hadn’t experienced since I first heard God Is An Astronaut’s Suicide By Star.
I’ve purchased and listened to their latest album, The Big Roar, a few times through since seeing them on television and it’s a great listen. I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the clip. However, it’s important to remember the point of this exercise which is to find out which bands are worth taking a look at while I’m wandering out in the oven baked confines of Grant Park. The heat combined with the lines for water, food and toilets can really bring you down. Especially if you’ve seen a couple of clunky acts in a row. I can safely say that whichever time slot The Joy Formidable end up getting, I’ll be there knowing I’m going to see a full effort and a loud, energetic set. They’ve made me that much more excited about this festival. So thanks, Wales. As a tribute I will send this post off with a Welsh saying - Cyw a fegir yn uffern, yn uffern y myn fod.
(Translation: Did you get that thing I sent you?)